An Introduction to Tee Names
Tee-Names are a form of nick-names, and are particularly unique to the folks in the north-east of Scotland. They were used originally to distinguish between people with the same name or within the same family and might refer to a personal characteristic, a trade, or where the person or family lived. Often they would be chained with the parent’s name (or Tee-name) and occasionally a chain of three or four such names occurred.
As a result of limited marriage opportunities in the small fishing villages of the north-east, each village had only a narrow range of surnames, and for the people of Portlethen, Findon and Downies the common surnames were Craig, Wood, Main and Leiper. Also there were only a limited number of Christian names in common use such as George, James, Alexander, etc. Thus there would have been an abundance of George Craig’s, James Woods, and other like combinations in use throughout the three villages.
To avoid difficulties in identifying people, the names of people in the villages were modified by the addition of tee-names and, as noted above, these tee-names were normally, although not always, inherited like surnames; the parents tee name being passed on to their sons and daughters.
This could end up being very confusing for any outsider that was unfamiliar with the system who was attempting to locate a particular villager. The local people themselves would have been very familiar with the names and would have known exactly who was who, who they were connected to and where they lived. Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates this.
A stranger has occasion to call on a fisherman, in one of the Buchan villages, of the name Alexander White. Meeting a girl he asked –
“Could ye tell me far Sanny Fite lives”?
“Filk Sanny Fite”?
“Muckle Sanny Fite”
“Filk muckle Sanny Fite”?
“Muckle lang Sanny Fite”
“Filk muckle lang Sanny Fite”?
“Muckle lang gleyed Sanny Fite” shouted the stranger.
This brought a positive response at last, “Och” said the lass “it’s ‘Goup-the-Lift’ ye’re seekin, Foo did ye nae speer for the man by his richt name tae begin wi’?”